Rumblings , June 1948
A visit to the Monaco Motor & Engineering Co., Ltd. of Watford, is always an interesting experience and thither we went the other day, feeling Monaco that it would be pleasant to see some racing cars mid-week, and not far from London. We certainly came away well satisfied, and impressed with what Director Ian Connell and General Manager John Wyer had to show us.
Incidentally, Monaco is a name which, applied to this well-known firm and not to the famous race at Monte Carlo, puzzles a lot of people, so it should be explained that it is made up from the names of Monkhouse and Connell, who founded the business in 1936 and made a speciality of tuning and servicing sports and racing cars until war broke out.
During the war Monaco Ltd. turned to the manufacture of parts for fighting vehicles and aircraft, and also developed the Monaco horizontally-opposed light aeroplane engine. Recently, Monaco Engines, Ltd., of Kings Langley, took over the manufacture of this engine and much of the general engineering side of the business, the Watford premises being turned over solely to car work.
On the occasion of our visit the first car we encountered, through the window of the establishment, was fully in keeping with the spirit of the place, for it was none other than Hamish Weir’s racing “K3” M.G. single-seater, now for sale. In the racing shop, which is under the care of P. Pugh, late of E.R.A. Ltd., many intriguing jobs were in progress. James’ 4.9-litre Bugatti was being fitted with a self-change gearbox and having its axle-ratio altered, and a similar conversion was being made to Ayrton’s Type 55 Bugatti, which was also having the engine — ex the Peter Monkhouse Type 51 — overhauled. This Type 55 retains the standard red-and-black finished two-seater body associated with these very desirable cars. Major Guy Gale’s ex-Connell, ex-Johnson Darracq was another car stripped for complete overhaul, many new parts from the French factory having been acquired for it, although new Martlett pistons will be installed, as best suited to a car of this character. It is probable that work on the car will be completed in time for it to run in the Spa 24-hour Sports Car Race on July 11th, and Dudley Folland’s ex-Seaman 2-litre Aston-Martin was also in small pieces, being made ready for the same race.
This Aston-Martin may be lightened subsequently, but reliability is the primary aim at present. For the same driver — Folland — Wyer’s Meadows-H.R.G., once the, property of Peter Clark, was being prepared for the I.O.M. Manx Cup race, and by the time these words are in print you will know how it got on. Peter Clark’s Type 49 Bugatti was having its engine rejuvenated, a normal “K3” M.G. 2-seater was in for complete rebuild, and Salvadori’s monoposto “2.9” Alfa Romeo was having its sprint final-drive ratio altered to something suited to the I.O.M. course, besides being given a general tune-up before the Castletown Trophy race.
Even this activity did not exhaust Monaco. They had two most interesting jobs going ahead on the V12 4-litre Sunbeams. One of these cars is being converted into a fantastic four-wheel-drive sprint car for J. M. James, the drive running forward to a transfer box and out to the front wheels via mechanism incorporating divers universal joints and ZN differentials mostly made in the Monaco machine-shop, thus justifying the car’s designation of Monaco-Sunbeam. The huge pre-selector gearbox installed by Sir Malcolm Campbell is retained, as are the 1/2-elliptic rear springs, while the new front-end is a most absorbing sight. The other V12 Sunbeam merely requires assembling and will probably be sold, converted for road use if the intrepid client so desires. Turning to more moderate things, a “K3” M.G. Magnette was recently rebuilt for the Swiss driver de Wurstenberger and was driven to the docks.
The machine-shop at Watford largely explains the specialised jobs Monaco will tackle, and complete on time. Equipped with Milwaukee and Parkson vertical and horizontal milling machines, Milnes, Southbends, Monarch and Holbrook centre lathes, Snow, Herbert and Preeimax surface and centreless grinders, Asquith drilling machines, Herbert shaping machines and lapping machines, etc., each driven by its own self-contained electric motor, this shop is able to tackle jobs of the utmost complexity, and some very beautiful work is turned out, such as the gears for the front-drive transmission of the Monaco-Sunbeam, elektron oil-pump bodies for the aero-engine, etc. Here, too, replacement parts are made for Alfa Romeo, Bugatti and other makes for which it is difficult to get spares, ranging from blow-off valves, filler caps, valves, valve-guides and kingpins, to gear shafts, blower drives, axle-shafts, brake-drums and crown-wheels and pinions, supplies of the last-named item, for Bugattis, being held in stock. One very ingenious tool is the Monaco de-tapper, which removes broken taps without damage and which has saved many outside concerns from having to scrap expensive castings. We gathered that specialist work is welcomed in this well-appointed machine-shop and that labour problems and power-cut difficulties are not met with in Watford.
Passing to the main workshop we found Gilbey’s Type 6C Maserati awaiting examination after its Jersey crash, the cleanliness of its engine a tribute to Monaco assembly and contradictory to the theory that Gilbey was blinded by oil on his goggles. Here, too, Machlachlan’s so-successful Centric-blown Austin Seven single-seater awaited entry to the racing shop for minor modifications. Then the special Monaco “PB” M.G. which Monkhouse developed for the T.T. in 1939 was awaiting a new owner, its bodywork modified and full road equipment, even to a hood, in place. Two “30/98” Vauxhalls were being given hydraulic brakes all round. One is Heal’s car and the other, when rebuilt, is destined for J. Morland, in South Africa; unobtainable parts are being made for it. Raphael’s imposing “38/250” Mercedes-Benz was likewise being endowed with new hydraulic brakes, replete with new brake drums, a job they do rather effectively in the aforementioned machine-shop. Which reminds us that supplying parts for wire mesh-making machinery is yet another job Monaco have tackled successfully, this tricky task involving scrapping the mandrel after each machining operation, but the resulting parts far outlasting the best that Germany could produce pre-war.
Returning to motor-cars, there was still a lot to see. There is a showroom to look after Monaco’s distributorship for Citroën cars; they are also retail dealers for M.G., Morris, Triumph and Standard.
Then there is the Quick Service bay, wherein clients’ cars can be greased, topped-up, washed and brushed-up with a minimum of delay. An interesting scheme is operated whereby a customer may have the routine jobs done to his or her car entered in a log and signed for by the Service Manager; apart from every eighth job under each of five main servicing headings being carried out free of charge, the log is a useful sort of document to have when selling your car. Readers in or near Watford are likely to wish to investigate this facility.
Finally, the stores, from which all manner of raw materials are fed to the machine-shop, and where spares, many of them for racing cars, are seen in fascinating array. Here, too, clients’ racing wheels and tyres are kept until the day arrives when they are needed for a race or sprint. Even now, we had not seen everything, for drawing office and test-bench facilities exist at the aero-engine factory at Kings Langley, and from there Peter Monkhouse frequently arrives to see how things are faring at Watford, and to act as consultant when the need arises. Many spares and parts are exported, and engines and cars arrive from abroad for overhaul and the magic touch. Vans are, of course, available for the transporting of racing cars, and there is no aspect of the racing game that Monaco cannot cover.
You might think that Ian Connell and John Wyer would be leaning back in well-merited self-satisfaction at this miniature factory — it even has its own workers’ canteen — in Watford High Street. Not a bit of it. They kept apologising for this and that while explaining improvements that have yet to be made in the 5,400 sq. ft. of main workshop, in the 1,600 sq. ft. of racing shop and in the 1,200 sq. ft. of washing and greasing bay. It all looked pretty good and efficient to us but, if you are a Monaco client, you may rest assured that the 20,000 sq. ft. of premises under the care of these two practical enthusiasts will grow even better and more efficient with the passage of time — which is saying a great deal. Go and see for yourself what we mean.
Everyone waits in keen anticipation for a glimpse of the B.R.M., especially as rumour has it that its specification is not going to be quite as hinted at in this and other papers. It is common knowledge that the project started by Raymond Mays is backed by the British Motor Racing Research Trust and that this Trust is composed of firms and other organisations which have contributed a minimum sum to be used in building a team of British Grand Prix cars, additional help being promised in the form of supplies and raw materials, etc. We are aware that no thoughts of individual advertisement are behind this very laudable scheme to foster National prestige, but we do feel that enthusiasts will like to know which organisations have shown themselves pro-race-minded and ready to stand by Mays in getting the B.R.M.s going. It is possible that other firms will like to add their names to the Trust, in which case we will gladly put them in touch with the Committee. The firms which, at the time of writing, are members of the Trust are:
Alford & Alder, Ltd., Walworth, S.E.17. Andre Rubber Co., Ltd. Amal, Ltd., Perry Bar, Birmingham. James Archdale & Co., Ltd., Worcester. Austin Motor Co., Ltd., Birmingham. Automotive Products Co., Ltd., Leamington Spa. Birkett & Sons, Ltd., Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. British Wire Products, Ltd., Stourport-on-Severn. The Brooke Tool Manufacturing Co., Ltd., Birmingham. Brown Bros. (Aircraft), Ltd., Northampton. David Brown & Sons, Ltd., Huddersfield. Brown & Co., Ltd., Colombo, Ceylon. Burman & Sons, Ltd., Rylands Road, Birmingham. Cambridge Instrument Co. Ltd., S.W.1. Capper Pass & Son, Ltd., Bristol. The Chloride Electric Storage Co., Ltd., London S.W.1. Charles Churchill & Co., Ltd., Birmingham. Clifford Towers Temple & Co., London, E.C.4. Connolly Bros. (Curriers), Ltd., Wimbledon. Cooper & Co. (Birmingham) Ltd., Birmingham. Cooper’s Mechanical Joints, Ltd., Slough, Bucks. Delaney Gallay, Ltd., London, N.W.2. Doncaster Daniel & Co., Ltd., Sheffield, 6. Dowty Equipment Co., Ltd., Cheltenham. Dunlop Rubber Co., Ltd., London, N.W.1. Electro Hydraulics, Ltd., Warrington. English Steel Corporation, Ltd., Sheffield. E. N. V. Engineering Co., Ltd., London, N.W.2. Equipment & Engineering Co., Ltd., Strand, W.C.2. Ferodo, Ltd., Chapel-en-le-Frith, Stockport. Thos. Firth & John Brown, Ltd., Sheffield. W. T. Flather, Ltd., Sheffield. Girling, Ltd., Tyseley, Birmingham. Guest Keen & Nettlefolds, Ltd., Birmingham. J. J. Habershon & Sons, Ltd., Rotherham. Hall & Pickles, Ltd., Manchester. Hardy Spicer & Co., Ltd., Birmingham. Heenan & Fronde, Ltd., Worcester. High Duty Alloys, Ltd., Slough, Bucks. Holt & Mosedale, Ltd. Smethwick, 40. Richard Klinger, Ltd., Sidcup, Kent. The Lace Web Spring Co., Ltd., Nottingham. Arthur Lee & Sons, Ltd., Sheffield. Lodge Plugs, Ltd., Rugby. Joseph Lucas,Ltd., Birmingham. John Lund, Ltd., Cross Hills, near Keighley, Yorks. Marples and Beasley Mining & Chemical Products, Ltd., London, W.C.2. Mollart Engineering Co., Ltd., Surbiton, Surrey. Motor Components (Birmingham), Ltd., Bordesley Green, Birmingham, 9. Motor Panels, Ltd., Coventry. Moy, Davies, Smith, Vandervell & Co., London, E.C.2. Natal Car Club, Durban, Natal, South Africa. National Standard Co., Ltd., Kidderminster. Pinchin, Johnson & Associates, Witley, Surrey. Power Flexible Tubing Co., Ltd., Finsbury Park, N. Remax Accessories, London, W.C.1. Rubery Owen & Co., Ltd., Darlaston, Staffs. Geo. Salter & Co., Ltd., West Bromwich. Joseph Sankey & Sons, Ltd., Bilton, Staffs. Smiths Motor Accessories, Ltd., Cricklewood Works, N.W.2. S. Smith & Sons, Ltd., Cricklewood Works, N.W.2. Specialloid, Ltd. North Finchley, N.12. Standard Motor Co., Ltd., Coventry. Standard Valves, Ltd., Northampton. Super Oils Seals & Gaskets, Ltd., Birmingham. Tecalemit, Ltd., Brentford. Tube Investments, Ltd., London, W.C.2. Vandervell Products, Ltd., Acton, W.8., The Vigzol Oil Refining Co., Mayfair, W.1. Vokes, Ltd., Henley Park, Guildford. A. Wander, Ltd., London, S.W.7. Ward & Goldstone, Ltd., Pendleton, Manchester, 6. Jonas Woodhead & Sons, Ltd., Leeds.
The 500 Club’s membership has grown to proportions surprising even to the most optimistic. Lots of cars to the Club’s Formula are known to 500 c.c. be under construction, such as the J.A.P.-engined F.I.A.T.-base 590 lb. car of Geoffrey Lang and R. L. Coward, the Cooper-like, Manx Norton-powered job evolved by K. Smith, Gibbs’ F.I.A.T.-base car from which 100 m.p.h. is expected, using an ex-T.T. Excelsior-J.A.P. engine. Adams’ special, which uses a dirt-track J.A.P. engine, Stone’s Ulster-Rudge-engined car, and Sewell’s tubular-chassis, rear engined car with i.f.s. all round, transverse leaf springs, Triumph Twin engine and Norton gearbox. There are hopes of circuit-racing for the 500s this year, both at the Carmarthen M.C. sand races at Pendine next month, and in a special race to precede the Belgian Grand Prix on June 19th.
There seem, indeed, only two flies in the otherwise soothing ointment. The first is that so ambitious are the majority of enthusiasts building cars to the 500 Formula that expenses are on the up-and-up. Even people with full workshop facilities, making many of their own parts, speak of £150-£200 as their expenditure on a car, and less fortunate brethren may well exceed double this figure if much of the work has to be “farmed out.” The other disappointment is that other clubs just will not adopt the 500 Formula; at Prescott, Brighton and Shelsley Walsh hill-climbs the up-to-500 c.c. class permits any car to run, even supercharged versions. At present this doesn’t matter very much, but one day someone will arrive with a blown Class 1 car (possibly inspired, maybe optimistically, by Formula II), and might then vanquish the atmospherically-induced entries, and that will increase the expense factor still more.
A refreshing counter to the first of the two snags we have ventured to enumerate above, is an article by Kenneth Neve in the Anniversary Number of the 500 Club’s magazine Iota, which, by the way, contains, in addition, articles by Earl Howe, S. C. H. Davis, R. D. Caesar and J. Sidall. Neve describes his first 500 Formula special and says it cost £111 10s. to build, and that had he possessed a lathe and welding plant this could have been reduced to under £100. He also paid dearly for his dirt-track Douglas engine, so that a similar car should be constructable for something in the region of £75. Neve sensibly took a page out of John Bolster’s book and employed a body-cum-chassis of ash and aluminium-covered three-ply, Morgan i.f.s., and rear suspension by catapult elastic (4d. per foot !) were used. This first Neve 500 hadn’t enough urge for serious racing, but it handled satisfactorily and was able to cover a standing 1/2-mile in 33 sec. Its construction led to the discovery that it is quite possible to make a safe Class 1 car weigh less than 500 lb. without the use of light alloys — no particular effort was made by Neve to get extreme lightness, yet his two-cylinder Neve 500 came out at just on 500 lb. This makes us wonder whether the Club is altogether wise in stipulating a minimum weight of 500 lb., for a good power/weight ratio is essential to effective showing by these 500-c.c. racing cars and those who cannot afford the high cost of high power must look elsewhere for performance.
Neve’s car certainly looks much more closely related to the cyclecar of tradition than most of the Club’s cars, and loses nothing by that. He is now engaged in wrestling with what he terms a “Much More Energetic” engine in a new chassis, but still expects the total cost to be well under £200. We most certainly do not advocate a lower standard of workmanship and finish than has featured to date in cars built to the 500 Formula, but we are wondering if the cost of such cars might not be reduced appreciably by building them rather more like cyclecars and less like miniature Grand Prix cars — especially bearing in mind that the significantly successful “Bloody Mary” pokes out far more urge and has never broken asunder or damaged a spectator.